Hill, who spent his first four major-league seasons pitching for the Cubs, resurrected himself as a starting pitcher by spending some humbling time far from the major leagues and their amenities a little more than a year ago.
“Whether it’s traveling from Sugar Land (Texas), getting into Long Island at 6 a.m.,” said Hill, who started two games for the Ducks of the Atlantic League. “Whether it was no bathroom in the dugout and peeing in a bucket.
“Things like that you have to take into account, where it’s like you’re playing the game because you love it, but you want to get back to the highest level and not give up. That’s what I’ve continued to do.”
Hill started 57 games from 2005 to 2008 for the Cubs, who drafted him in the fourth round in 2002. He was 18-17 with a 4.37 ERA in 3372/3 innings.
He will face his former team in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Shoulder surgery forced Hill to the bullpen after the 2009 season, when he started 13 games for the Orioles. In 2011 Hill had Tommy John elbow surgery, and no team would give him a chance other than in the bullpen. He chose to go his own way and joined the Ducks after the Nationals released him in June 2015.
He didn’t start again in the big leagues until the Red Sox gave him a chance three months later.
Hill’s infant son, Brooks — who “was born with multiple issues,” Hill said in early 2014 — died in March of that year.
“I always talk about staying in the moment and trying to make the most of the time we have,” Hill said.
Hill said he has a special place in his heart for the Cubs, but he called pitching in the postseason against the organization that drafted him nothing more than coincidence.
“It could be any team, right?” he said. “I don’t look at it any differently than any other team.”
The Dodgers are Hill’s eighth team in a career during which he has been granted free agency eight times and been released three times. The Dodgers acquired him from the Athletics at the trade deadline with outfielder Josh Reddick.
He rewarded them by striking out nine Marlins in seven perfect innings in his third start with the team on Sept. 10. He was pulled from the game in a controversial decision by manager Dave Roberts, who explained he did so because Hill’s recurring blister problem — which caused him to miss nearly a month of the season — was threatening to become serious.